Timing and transitions in mother-infant gaze

David J. Messer, Peter M. Vietze

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Forty-nine mothers and infants were observed when the children were 10 weeks, 26 weeks, and 54 weeks. The pattern of dyadic gaze between the two individuals was recorded for approximately 90 min in their home. Across all three ages a consistent asymmetry was found between the mothers' and infants' looking behavior. The mothers were more attentive to the infants than the infants were to the mothers. However, as the children became older, both partners looked at each other more frequently and for shorter durations. These changes were more marked for the infants than the mothers. In addition, the findings of our study replicate and extend Stern's (1974a) observations of mother-infant interaction. At 10 weeks and 26 weeks it was found that gaze was influenced by where the partner was looking. Both mother and infant were more likely to start a gaze and less likely to stop a gaze when the other person was looking at them rather than looking away. However, as the children became older the influence of the partner's gaze state diminished. The findings highlight the way that nonverbal communication undergoes transformation and development even before the onset of speech.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-181
Number of pages15
JournalInfant Behavior and Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1984


  • frames
  • mother-infant gaze
  • social interaction
  • transition probabilities


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